I’ve received a very loving and concerned email from a good friend because of this week’s posts. 🙂 I did say from the outset that none of what I wrote would be a good measure of my deepest politics. Let me assure you all that I will not be ditching the whole of my Christian education, just because I’ve thrown a few seditious musings out here on the internet.
This started originally, not as an attempt to disprove a popular view of history, but as a quest to understand individual people of the times, and thus my characters, so that I can write fully in their perspective. And they would not, as my writing mentor so beautifully put it, portray truth with the accuracy that God would. Human history is largely limited by the perceptions of those who record it, and the telling of it shaded accordingly.
But in so doing–reading personal accounts of people who were there, and studying everything from living conditions here in the colonies to political statements made by those across the water–certain assumptions I held about this period of history have been called into question. My posts this week have been an overspill of processing through that.
I would, however, venture to assert that the faith of many Confederate leaders is far more than token church attendance and mere lipservice … a look at the writings of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in particular show that these men held a deep and genuine trust in God. And as Elliot pointed out, George Washington and many of his contemporaries were truly reverent of their Creator, as well … even if they were not what we evangelicals would term “born again.”
And so, I never intended to disparage Christian education as a whole–I just wish we humans weren’t so prone to thinking our very existence is thrown into question if we dare to admit that our forefathers weren’t 100% correct in everything they did … it seems to me that is more the motivation behind a simplistic and whitewashed version of history, rather than some noble desire to spare young children the gory details.
Daniel, while in Babylon, regularly went before God in confession of personal and national sin–not for his generation only, I am sure, but for many that led up to the captivity of Israel. I do wonder whether we Americans don’t have more to answer for than we know–or are willing to admit.
Well, no offense, but from my Canadian point of view – why would the Christianity of Confederate officers be something to be proud of?
I know that they thought their cause (state’s rights) was just, but in retrospect it looks like a horrific war for a terrible cause (the slave system).
I can only imagine what millions of devout African-American Christians (or hundreds of millions of Africans, for that matter) must think of the Confederacy’s interpretation of Christianity.
On a related topic, I was reading about the Civil War recently, and was intrigued by Lincoln’s spiritual development. It sounds like he was a rationalist and skeptic who at some point came to believe God’s Providence was at work in the war – and not in a triumphalist way, but in a ‘we have all sinned and fallen short’ sense.
Shannon McNear says
Interesting thoughts on Lincoln, Elliot.
I’m not sure what to tell you about the Confederate leaders’ Christianity. I agree slavery is a horrible institution–I am glad we as a nation finally outlawed it and wish we would do the same with more subtle slaveries–but do we disparage the faith of Biblical figures because they practiced slavery–or took part in other practices we find culturally unacceptable? Abraham had Hagar … the Old Testament law makes provision for a type of slavery (not as America and Britain practiced it, however) … even New Testament believers were merely told to be good masters, not that they MUST free their slaves.
I think it’s important to understand, too, that not only Africans were sold into slavery–or that it was being perpetrated solely by white, English-speaking people, either. The issue of black slavery only cuts closest to us because of the Civil War–but American Indians were also sold in great numbers as slaves, and that often by rival Indian tribes. Indenturing was a form of temporary slavery which white people often willingly entered or were forced to by circumstances.
This is a deep and complex issue, and I realize I risk serious misunderstanding by even posting this much. But again, I’m just making observations….
Those are good points!